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Last Updated: 18 October 2000


Chicago Sun-Times
By Lon Grahnke
Television Critic

When UPN canceled The Sentinel in May after three seasons, loyal viewers protested vigorously. And they got results.

Chief programmer Tom Nunan, UPN Entertainment president, has responded by renewing the action drama as a midseason replacement series, airing here on WPWR- Channel 50.

Richard Burgi will return as Lt. Jim Ellison, a police detective in the fictional city of Cascade, Wash. A former Special Forces soldier, Ellison survived alone for 18 months in a Peruvian jungle. During his ordeal, Ellison developed his heightened senses to a superhuman level. Back in civilization, working as a Cascade cop, Ellison uses his sensory powers to fight crime and protect people.

The Sentinel ranked 159th among the 179 prime-time series during the 1997-98 season. Nunan will select a slot for the show after the fall cancellations begin.



People Online interview & article by Maria Ciaccia
Richard Burgi talks about love, life -- and (offline) surfing

Richard Burgi

"Call me after noon, and we'll swing, Baby," Sentinel star Richard Burgi promises PEOPLE Online. Barely awake and staring down a cup of coffee while playing with his toddler son, Jack, the actor talks from his L.A. home about his hiatus before starting the series' fourth season. "We're all done till some time in August, September -- then we're going to be filming in Vancouver for about seven months. Vancouver is a beautiful place to work. My wife Lori teaches yoga up there, and my son comes to the set and wreaks havoc all over the place."

Of his success as the psychic Jim Ellison on the UPN series, Burgi seems pleased with his progress on the show, which has a large online following. "I guess I fooled them all. I felt for a long time, in some way, deficient. But now I think through all the work I've done in life -- I still have a long way to go -- and I'm saying, give me the ball, I'll run with it. I've always shied away [from] taking the bull by the horns, as it were."

The Montclair NJ native got into acting "when an old girlfriend was directing a play when I was in high school, and she asked me to come in and read. I was playing in a band and playing sports, and I thought, sure, I can fit it in."

Turns out acting was a good fit for the 40-year-old actor, who first attracted attention in several soap roles -- Another World, As the World Turns, One Life to Live and Days of Our Lives. After a one-year stint in District Attorney William Conrad's office on CBS' Jake and the Fatman, Burgi had a recurring role in the NBC series Viper. Then, in 1994, he costarred with Cheryl Ladd in the short-lived One West Waikiki. which can now be seen on the Lifetime Television Network.

At first, The Sentinel almost didn't make it, though a strong viewer campaign -- reportedly, more than 10,000 fans called to protest the show's imminent cancellation -- ensured the show's survival. "I believe the fans had a great influence keeping it going," Burgi says, "though I also think it was Paramount's intention to keep the show alive." Burgi appreciated the effort: "I love the show, I love the people I act with -- Garett Maggart and Bruce Young -- and the crew up in Canada are terrific. As far as doing a show that's not on CBS or NBC -- I love working, and this for me is actually more fun," he explains. "If Sentinel were on CBS, NBC, ABC, I have no idea what it would be like. First of all, those big network shows seem more reality-based. Secondly, I don't think I'd want that scrutiny and incessant attention right now. I don't like to be creative when I'm feeling stressed. I like to have a good time and be relaxed."

He was once so relaxed he nearly cracked his head open. "While filming, I was doing a stunt on a jet ski -- I'm not that fond of those -- and doing another scene, I had hurt my back picking a bad guy up and putting him down. I've had this on and off back problem for years," Burgi recalls. "The doctor gave me a Percocet. I was pretty hammered. So I got on this thing, and I was spinning around and trying to splash the producer -- the stunt guy had taught me how to take it on its side. We were working near this huge steel barge, and each time I tried to get closer to it. I finally nicked it, fell off, and the whole crew jumped up and were peering over the side, thinking I'd crushed my skull on this barge. I got up, and the producer, still on the phone, took it all in, never stopped talking, just kind of nodded like, yep, okay, he's still alive."

For someone so relaxed -- both on and off the set -- Burgi says he has been focused on some major goals. "I've had three clear thoughts in my life. One, I was going to get married and have a family, one I was going to be an actor and one I was going to surf," he says. His marriage three years ago to Lori Kahn and the birth of his son (Jack Charles Burgi) in 1996 "changed my life around," he says. He married at 37 -- kind of late for a handsome hunk. (One of his ex-girlfriends is Anne Heche.) "I came close, maybe, but it was just all for the wrong reasons. Men, they evolve slower. They mature slower than women -- they should take more time" in settling down.

In his spare time Burgi pursues his love of music -- he is an accomplished musician and owns a vintage drum set. A nature lover, he is actively involved with the Bozeman, Montana-based Yellowstone Ecological Survey, which works to inform and educate people about Yellowstone Park's fragile ecosystem. "Life comes and goes, and I think we need to save our planet and not hurt it," he explains. "I like to be proactive, but at the same time I like to work in a grass roots way and impact my environment as best I can."

As for having an interview published on the Internet -- well, Burgi's not sure he will see the finished product online. "My wife is involved on the Internet. I don't know how to turn the computer on, and I would like it to remain that way," he admits. "My grandmother never got a driver's license. She's 98 now -- she thought, no, I'll stick with the horse and buggy. To me, the computer takes too much away from my analog life."


Taya reports:
Associated Press has put out its advanced copy of the "On This Date In History" column for 30 July ... and Richard Burgi is mentioned in the birthday section!

Ultimate TV - July's Hottest Birthday Boy UltimateTV is running a feature on celebrity birthdays for July and visitors to the site are asked to vote for the Hottest Birtday Boy and Girl.

As of the morning of July 22, the current vote is as follows:

Results of The Hottest Birthday Boy

Richard Burgi 44 %
Kevin Spacey 34 %
Dean Cain 18 %
Matt LeBlanc 1 %
Rob Estes 1 %
Brian Austin Green 1 %

FRIENDS ON SET - July 27 1998

TV WEEK - Australia (August 1-7)

Spending many long days in front of the camera to put together each episode of The Sentinel, the cast say their friendships get them through.

Garett Maggart (left), who plays Blair Sandburg in the explosive action series, says his feisty on-screen relationship with Richard Burgi (police detective and ex-soldier Jim Ellison) mellows considerably once the cameras stop rolling.

"Richard and I fuelled the antagonism between the two characters from the very start," he says. "But, off screen, we get along brilliantly.

"He's a real trip, man. He's out there! We have a blast together. We all do. It makes the job easier and the day go faster.

"We're always messing around and pulling jokes on each other.

"We pass time playing basketball. We're both very competitive. Richard's a big guy and he's tall. I'm short, but I'm definitely the dominator."
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